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Was the Met Gala Red Carpet Risky Enough for You?

There’s no wrong answer

05.01.17

Most red-carpet fashion is designed to flatter, which is why it’s generally so snoozy. Nipped-in waists, body con, plunging necklines…it’s literally tailor-made to show off “the goods,” often at the expense of what might actually be considered cool, interesting or subversive. But the Met Gala is different. It is a designated opportunity to play mad scientist with the boundaries of what we consider “fashionable” black-tie garb.

I’ll admit I was particularly excited to see how celebrities would pay homage to this year’s Rei Kawakubo theme — because talk about the antithesis of stereotypically seductive clothing. Kawakubo is it. Cartoonish layers, androgyny, piled-on padding, bulbous hips, tattered fabric, mutant trousers…such are the signature trappings of her legendary designs — almost purposefully upsetting at times. The New York Times nailed the essence of Kawakubo’s singularity earlier today, writing, “Many designers work with the goal of making women look good. Ms. Kawakubo seems to work with the goal of making women look again.”

And again and again and again. I was glued to Man Repeller’s Instagram live feed of the event, masterfully narrated by one Amelia Christina Diamond.

My first favorite moment was discovering that the red carpet was actually a beige carpet. My second favorite moment was when the Olsen twins SPRINTED up the steps like Uncle Jesse was saving them a seat inside. Their ensembles looked like those of two people who got cold on the plane home from Coachella, but somehow an incredibly chic version of that image. How do they do it?? I am forever in awe.

Tracee Ellis Ross in Comme des Garçons was an excellent example of how to execute on the evening’s theme while still looking completely yourself. I could have easily packed up my No. 2 pencil and gone to bed after she arrived looking like the perfect combination of Violet Beauregarde, Christmas morning and a chaise lounge, but thank goodness I didn’t because Jaden Smith showed up shortly thereafter carrying a fistful of his own (recently removed) dreadlocks. Given Kawakubo’s reputation for bucking norms, I couldn’t help but smile in appreciation.

The majority of tonight’s nods to Kawakubo’s iconic personage and designs aired on the side of subtle, however — like Dakota Johnson’s ruffly, oversize shoulder pads and Kerry Washington’s blunt black bob.

Some people pushed the boundary a bit further. Shout out to Jenna Lyons for giving Girl Scouts an unsolicited makeover, Cara Delevingne for putting the Tin Man to shame, Rihanna for moonlighting as a sea anemone, Solange for wearing Darth Vader’s college duvet and Zendaya for looking like a Grace Coddington Vogue editorial come to life.

When I say “pushed the boundary,” I’m referring to the one set by regular red-carpet standards, which is a pretty low bar. I was hoping people would take a truly balls-to-the-wall approach given Kawakubo’s penchant for the absurd. We’re talking about the woman who sends walking sculptures down the runway, after all. So why not go all out and show up at the Met Gala wearing a lampshade strapped over your head or a jacket with no arm holes? If not this year, then when? I wanted to be dazzled!

After consuming the relatively safe fruits of this year’s beige carpet, I thought I had the right to be a bit disappointed. But then Leandra massaged my eyeballs with this slack: “The whole thing with Rei’s clothing is that she doesn’t impose her own meaning on it.” After which I immediately thought to myself: OKAY, YES, THAT IS VERY TRUE.

Kawakubo intentionally leaves her designs up for our interpretation as the audience/wearers, which means there was no messing up this year’s red (I mean beige) carpet. It was the ultimate “you do you,” and what’s more mad scientist than that? It can literally mean anything you want. That kind of open territory is just as bold as a bulbous hip pad, and Kawakubo knows it.

All photos via Getty Images.

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  • Riley W

    BUT WHERE WAS SJP??? Truly heartbroken.

    • Harling Ross

      I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW

    • Lakirk

      few people who could have pushed the boundaries without looking inauthentic: SJP, Jenna Lyons, Amy Schumer, even Madona

  • Hayley Clark

    i thought the lewks were lewkwarm

    • Harling Ross

      heheh

  • Haley Nahman

    I’m about Solange in this photo, it’s 2 good. Also Harls v astute

    • Harling Ross

      so comfy she probably didn’t even change when she got home

  • Katy

    Priyanka Chopra blew my mind. I want a crazy trench gown with a train!

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    v good point about rei’s ethos= you do you. i’m trying not too be unfairly judgemental but….what happened to kim?? :'( i was so disappointed. i have seen north west in more groundbreaking outfits. (which is not saying much because as we all know, north west is a fashion icon and is to be respected as such…but still…)

  • Sierra Mayhew

    I’m on the same page as you, Haley!! I literally just posted something similar http://www.styleintheway.com/an-ode-to-the-real-met-gala-attendees/
    I think it’s almost disrespectful that some celebrities dressed nearly naked because that’s not what Comme des Garcons is all about. I think celebrities are afraid to take as many risks as they were in the past because of social media backlash. I totally admire everyone who risked it.

    • Cristina

      Omg I commented on Vogue something similar. I would honestly be offended if someone showed up to such a grandiose (used to be anyway) event wearing what looks like a linen beach cover up ala Kim K.

  • PeppermintNightmare

    I was so disappointed that I’m still unfollowing every celebrity that isn’t Rihanna. I’m an hour in and just disgusted that all of this celebrity trash couldn’t pack away their ego for just one night to honor one of the truest fashion gods left.

    • PeppermintNightmare

      Oh and tracie Ellis Ross

  • Anne Dyer

    Lupita, Dakota, Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez. Yes. The rest, all the rest. N to the O. Not feeling it this year.

  • Rheanonn Perez

    my fav looks were by the celebs who made an effort to pay homage: riri, solange, gigi, janelle, helen lasichanh & pharrell

    frheak.net

  • Emmie

    i understand what Leandra was saying, that ultimately it is about how they interpret the theme for the Gala – but come ON (Gwyneth im looking at you)

    • Harling Ross

      Gwyneth in CDG would have been especially epic I must admit

  • Hannah Betts

    It irritates the hell out of me the way that other Met reporting ignores the fact that there’s a theme and judges women by normative – and, as you imply, put-it-all-out-there heteronormative – red-carpet standards.

  • Celia Sánchez

    Sometimes they exceed to be honest.

  • Andy

    well one thing’s for sure – you can rely on rihanna to deliver the goods!

    • Harling Ross

      Always and 4ever

  • Katia Luyo Angeles

    Ok, so most celebs want to look “good”, “sexy” because everyone’s looking, whatever. I didn’t have hopes for their looks, but the people (celebs or not) who always go to the Met gala and play up to the theme… even they wore regular red carpet clothing. Some even looked like they were dressing according to past years themes. This was the moment to just express and all I saw were tight dresses and slits everywhere. While I agree with Leandra’s text, one thing is to not impose and another is to not care. Just 🙁 …anyway it’s 6am and I’m sleep deprived because of the flu so I’m a bit susceptible </3

  • Love Riri’s look, CDG forever <3

    ‘Share’ by August Harvest
    Instagram

  • Heleen Peeters

    Lena Dunham won 🙂

  • Kay Nguyen

    I like Cara’s, Lupita’s, Lopez’s, Gigi’s, and Elle’s outfits, the rest are no! Sometimes I don’t know what kind of stylists work for some of these celebs 🙁

    https://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • Suzan

    Yeah, I was a little underwhelmed as well. Especially by the amount of conventional dresses (looking at Gwyneth especially). Take a cue from Whiz Kalifa, thought he looked ace! I mean I think that’s an example of still looking interesting while not going all Katy Perry.
    In that same vein I loooved the whole look of Michelle Monaghan!

    • Harling Ross

      Oh I missed Michelle! Googling now

  • Greer Clarke

    Madonna what the fuck

  • Natasha

    I was so disappointed, I thought that this theme would’ve brought a whole different level of perspective to fashion at the MET, especially since kawakubo’s work is basically wearable art and what better occasion to go balls out like a walking canvas! Ofcourse, it didn’t all have to be strictly according to theme but what about taking the idea of wabi-sabi, unconventional proportions etc and running with it? It was like a lame-ass oscars red carpet with only a handful of exceptions. I’m gonna go eat a cookie now.

  • Bo

    I like this “you do you” interpretation of Kawakubo’s approach to style, but bearing that in mind it makes me even more disappointed in the majority of the outfits this year. I actually found them a little disrespectful to her legacy. She has spent years subverting the form in every way possible, creating weird shapes and outfits, and by extension, ideas and images, and what does this apparent tribute show give back in return? A timid litany of bodycon outfits, sequins recommended, with the occasional plume of feathers or fur (ahem Blake Lively, both Hadids, Emily Ratajowski etc), or relatively unremarkable dresses which would be inappropriate for the Oscars red carpet (Gwyneth, Jennifer Lopez, Rose Byrne, etc), or just plain unremarkable dresses in any circumstance, eg Miranda Kerr, Diane Kruger. The looks I considered to be most on theme were Tracee Ellis Ross, Solange, Ruth Negga, Kate Bosworth to a degree, Liu Wen, Jourdan Dunn and of course Rihanna. Oh and sort yourself out, Madonna, that outfit looked like a meme.

    • This!!! ☝🏻 I’m with you. They just dressed up for a gala… nothing else.

    • Harling Ross

      True, Kawakubo has spent her career subverting the form, but she has also spent her career giving 0 fuqs about what other people thought and basically doing whatever the heck her wonderfully weird brain wanted — so in essence, that is what I was allowing for in my conclusion — the gala attendees’ right to follow in Kawakubo’s footsteps and pay her homage by wearing whatever the heck they wanted, bodycon and sequins included. Although I’ll agree with you, it would have been more *fun* if they’d gone ham.

      • Bo

        That’s all true, but it wasn’t her running the show, was it? It was a fashion event on a theme of her, aka her work, which means weird shapes and textures, going the full Björk, if you will. And the majority of them just went full normal! They couldn’t wait to get on board with the cultural appropriation when the theme was china, or wear something metallic when is was Manus x Machina. It was a massive let down.

  • Bee

    I thought there were a lot of cool looks and a lot of looks that made me wonder if they even knew what the theme was. But as someone who is a big Rei Kawkaubo fan and who really looked forward to this year’s gala since the day they announced the theme, I was ultimately disappointed 🙁

  • “goal of making women look again” .. I like it…

  • Eva Thomas

    Nailed it, Harling! Loved, loved this review, and Amelia’s live was the only one I watched the entire time. <3 Thanks for sharing and taking us along!

    • Harling Ross

      <3

  • Holly Laine Mascaro

    BE MORE BORING, GWYNETH.

    • Cristina

      I mean, in her defense it was probably really difficult to source a biodegradable, organic, sustainable material. And then having to track down the angels to hand dye it with natural dye made from nature. Plus, the leprechauns that had to sew it?! I mean, we will never know how excruciating that process was for her. (insert eye roll emoji) haha

  • Andrea

    Tom Brady & Giselle were CO-CHAIRS and came in with that disrespectful boring sexy garb? That’s gonna be a no from me dawg.

  • Cristina

    ::sigh:: I mean, personally, the Met Gala is losing it’s splendor for me. It’s all the same people that are forced in front of us daily on the Gram, or E! or People. Wearing the same thing, with the same butts and the same nipples. Like, we’ve seen it all. Literally. All of you. Loved Amelia’s coverage, but didn’t love the red carpet this year. So many people zooming past, with what seemed like blatant disregard for the media and the people. The Met Gala is a scene. It’s a spectacle. It’s like… when you are little and you wanted to be Cinderella. The magic is gone now. Last night was a snooze.

  • Still VERY disappointed though!

  • Ana Elisa L.

    Michèle Lamy was amazing! Maybe more CDG in life than Rei!

  • Lakirk

    The thing with avant-garde is that unless you deliberately want to look ridiculous, you can only wear it IF and only IF your whole self is avant-garde. Otherwise is costume and disrispectful to Rei’s whole message.

  • Áine Hegarty

    Some of the looks were so incredibly blah!!! They would have even been boring for the traditional red carpet.

  • Delphine Gintz

    I’m pleasantly surprised with Kate Bosworth, Pharell And Helen looking like Playmobil, and Rihanna’s make up is so amazing I’m crying

  • Fred Sahai

    Fave look was Christine and the Queens in Burberry

  • Megan

    Where is Adwoa Aboah! She looked brill, as did Tracee Ellis Ross, Ruth Negga, Solange, L-R Depp, Michele Lamy, Ashley Graham and ofc Rihanna – also I think Zendaya’s look was possibly the most appealing but didn’t seem especially on-theme… reeally did not like Olsens, J-Lo, Madonna (red carpet not the place for Moschino ever!!!), Jenna Lyons, Kylie Jenner… most of the rest were either lovely but no effort or just meh. But it’s a nice point about the individuality thing 🙂

  • I am like, almost always disappointed by the Met Gala’s red carpet, especially when the Costume Institute itself seems to be ramping up the quality of their shows – trying to incorporate a new perspective rather than be a boring academic show, or a crowd-pleasing spectacle. Give me genderbending! Give me wild proportions! Give me a ticket so I can make my own damn masterpiece!

    I love seeing glamorous haute couture at the Oscars, I want to see on-theme weird shit at the Met Gala.

  • beccamu

    i don’t know what it is about zendaya in that parrot dress but i am SHOOK <3 <3 <3

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